Sunday, September 23, 2012

College Days -- Annie Grey, Anouk Bramley, Rakesh Pratap

"Well Professor Outridge, if we look at this situation mathematically, a whole chronology with each new discovery falling into a simple algorithm...."


"... and each of discovery being equally part of a whole...."


"... the whole being seven, which is of course a very important number...."


"Yes, Professor?"

Professor Outridge rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I appreciate your candor, but, well...."

"What he's trying to say, Chris, is you do realize you're not in math class, right? This is History of Simlish Civilization." Rakesh chimed in. 

Christoph appeared taken aback. "Yeah, but, you can always..."

"No. Algorithms don't matter here."

"Well, they...."



Rakesh held up his hands."Just no."

Professor Outridge cleared his throat. “Alright, now, after that little detour…. Annie. You look like you wanted to say something before we, eh, got off track."

"Yes, Professor,” Annie Grey smiled from her seat at the front of the class. “I can see where Christoph is coming from, but I think in this context, the common usage of the term 'Livin' Large' was more of a metaphor for improving one's lot in life through adding new sims, new careers, and new items to your life. Not to mention the fact that it was a time of great fantasy. I mean, zombies, genies and clowns? That's just my take on it, of course."

Professor Outridge looked extremely pleased. "You're right on track, Annie. Good work. Well, that's about all we can tackle for today. See you all on Thursday, and make sure you have your essays on the history and rabid spread of the Guinea Pig Virus ready to turn in! Remember, I want 2,000 words!"

After class, a few of the students congregated in the library to try to get a jump on Professor's Outridge's essay.

"Outridge gets a bit slap-happy with the viruses and diseases, doesn’t he?” Rakesh sighed, milling over the books, running his finger along the spines.”

"Well, yeah!” Anouk snorted, “2,000 words?! On the Guinea Pig Plague?! Is he kidding?"

"Oh, I don't think it'll be that bad. We have enough materiel on the subject,” Annie said, motioning to the large stack of books beside them.

“Ever the optimist, Annie,” said Anouk, picking up one of the books and flipping it open. She coughed as dust erupted from the pages.

"What's there to write on, really?” Rakesh went on, maneuvering another large pile of books beside the table, managing to drop them on the floor before ever reaching their table. He sighed as he gathered them up. “Just don't own guinea pigs, that's all. They’re nasty little creatures."

"Rakesh, you do realize that the virus has been eradicated, right?"

"Yeah, sure, that’s what they tell us. My father’s medical director at Simberry Grace, and he says viruses mutate all the time! Old diseases come back, new ones form… I’m not taking any chances. You won’t catch me within five-hundred yards of a guinea pig!”

Anouk fixed him in an unenthusiastic stare. She looked like she was going to protest, but ended up simply rolling her eyes. “Anyway. How are you other classes going, Annie?”

“Very well, I think. My Ancient History classes are probably the most interesting!”

Anouk peered at Annie from over the dusty book. “Are you still thinking about majoring in Archeology?”

“I am.”

“Well Mount Branyon has a good program, apparently.”

Rakesh agreed. “A cousin of mine graduated with a degree in Archeology a few years ago, and now he works in Romania! But there’re always interesting finds closer to home, too….”

“Me, I’d rather be in Romania than Simberry. At least with my father around….”

“Still campaigning for you to go into Medicine, Rakesh, is he?” All Rakesh did was grumble. Anouk nodded her understanding, and said “You can’t blame him, really – I mean, Law is such a pedestrian career choice. Not challenging, or interesting, nor does it contribute in any way to society.”

Rakesh glowered as Anouk gave him a cheeky grin, and Annie chuckled. “It’s not funny!” He protested. “He just doesn’t get it. I don’t want to go into medicine like him and mom… and Raj… and Naveen… and Deepti….”

“Jeez. Not like you had your way cut out for you or anything.” 

“And it isn’t like I’m just skating through school! In addition to History of Simlish Civilization, which has to be the easiest, even with Christoph’s constant interruption and Professor Outridge’s insane essays, I have Finance and Logic, Political Science and my Public Speaking class….”

“Do you ever have time for fun?” Annie inquired. 

“I do not! When I’m not in class, I’m working on homework, when I’m not working on homework I’m studying for the next exam, when I’m not studying, I’m practicing my speeches, when I’m not practicing speeches, I’m ignoring phone calls from my father imploring me to switch majors!”

“You could always take a night off,” Annie suggested.

“Yeah,” Anouk agreed, “Annie and I and some of our dorm-mates are throwing a party tonight! There’ll be music and dancing, food, games….”

“And not a single phone-call from your father.” Annie offered with a smile.

Rakesh seemed to debate this for a moment, a grin growing on his face. “Yeah,” he agreed finally, “I think I can make time for that!”

Monday, September 3, 2012

Seaside - Jimmie Page

Jimmie sat in the warm sand, watching the waves roll towards her, the surf lapping at her feet. Impact Entertainment had, in an unprecedented act of generosity, sent a group of its performers to a posh resort in Edgewater Valley for a weekend of relaxation. Jimmie had thought it was just what she needed - she'd been melancholy lately, and a weekend in the sun had sounded wonderful. 

Unfortunately, once she got there, she slowly realized her mood wasn't necessarily due to her surroundings. She felt just as down there, looking out at the crystal clear waters of the ocean as she had in the studio in Junction City, or during her downtime at home in Simberry. 

"G'day, Jim!"

Jimmie glanced sideways, blinking herself out of her reverie, and saw Leander sliding down into the sand next to her. 

"I almost didn't recognize ya, love, without the blazin' red hair!"

She gave him a small smile, and tucked a lock of her now natural-colored hair behind her ear. She hadn't bothered with the upkeep that crimson red hair required.  "Yeah," she lied, "Just figured it was time for a change."

"Well it becomes ya," he grinned nudging her. His smile was infectious.

"Did you have a good trip out?" She asked.

"I did!"

"Good, good. You know, Verity's thinking about booking a cruise back to Simberry, making the vacation last a bit longer."

"Now there's a bonzer idea! You gonna go too?"

"Nah, I don't think so."

"Com'on, Jim! Live a bit."

"With my luck, we'd end up reenacting the Simtanic."

"Jim!" Leander laughed, but Jimmie shook her head.

"I'm serious. It'll be a nice weekend, but just being able to loaf around at home sounds good." She was silent for a moment, watching the waves, before realizing that he was staring at her. "What?"

"Yer startin' to worry me, Jimmie. You've been glum since we got back from the tour."

"Ah, it's nothing...."

"And yer a terrible liar, to boot."

Jimmie regarded him for a moment, before shaking her head. She slowly got to her feet, "I think I need to get out of the sun."

"Oh, com'on, Jim! Don't go!"

"Yeah, I think I'm gonna head back to the hotel...."

"Jim, look," Leander stopped her, and leaned in. "You can't leave. I mean, for Pete's sake, shelia. If Dahlia's out here bravin' the sun, I think you can." Jimmie peered over Leander's shoulder to see the goth rock singer playing a spirited game of catch with Anouk Bramley, her skin so white she nearly blended in with the sand. "If she's not worried about burning to a crisp, you've got no excuse." 

Jimmie snorted. "Yeah, I guess."

"And plus, Verity's been drivin' Anouk yarra lately  -- crazy, before ya ask. So much so, Noukie walked out of a recordin' session the other day. It'd be good for her to see us all out, havin' a laugh together, wouldn't it?"

Jimmie frowned, and fixed him in a long stare. Finally, she sighed. "You're a real pain sometimes, you know?"

Leander flashed her a thousand-watt smile, and threw an arm around her shoulders. "You're a doll, ya know that, love?"

"Yeah, yeah." She groused, but couldn't keep the smile from her face as he led her over to a half-built sandcastle near the surf.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent most enjoyably by all. Jimmie found it difficult to sulk with Leander around -- his smile was infectious, and he was upbeat as a man could be. He was in his element too, on the beach and surrounded by women. He taught Anouk to surf, or attempted to; he and Verity danced in the sand to Story's End's 'Born Free'; and he even helped a slightly reddened Dahlia search for seaglass.

Jimmie was relaxing in a hammock shortly before sunset, when Dahlia moseyed by, collecting sticks. "Leander says we're building a fire," she announced, a thoughtful sort of smile on her face. “He says we’re going to roast marshmallows on these sticks. He thinks of the oddest things...."

Jimmie blinked confusedly but nodded, deciding as Dahlia walked away that she was just... unique.

Sure enough, as soon as twilight rolled around, Leander had a roaring fire built for them, the crackling of the logs just audible over the sound of the radio.

"I think Impact needs to sign a few more guys," Jimmie said with a laugh, watching Leander spin Dahlia around in the firelight. "A little competition for attention might do him good!"

"Right!” Anouk agreed from across the fire, “But I think it'd break Leander's heart, not being the center of feminine attention.”

"All right!" Leander laughed after the end of the song, making his way over to the fire and depositing a giggling Dahlia gently in the sand. "Com'on, Jim!"

"Sorry? Com'on what?" She asked, her brow furrowed.

"Com'on and dance with me, love! I've had each o' you girls out here on the floor, for lack of a better term, 'cept you! Now get up, n' gimme a dance."

"You're a hard man to say no to."

"That’s what I count on,” he grinned, taking her hand, pulling her to her feet and out into the sand and spinning her around.

They danced for all of a minute before the fun, upbeat pop song ended, and the radio cut to something less heart-pounding -- one of Jimmie's own. With the first strains of 'Looking Back at Me', Jimmie stepped away from Leander, and turned back to the fire.

"Well that was fun, thanks, Lea-" Jimmie said with a smile, retreating toward the fire when Leander caught her hand.

"Where do you think yer goin'?” He asked, pulling her back towards him. “That wasn't much of a dance! Com'ere!"

"Leander, no, I can't...."

"Why not?"

"I...” Jimmie pursed her lips, glancing down at the three other women sitting around the fire, seemingly too engrossed in conversation to pay much attention to her words. “I don't slow dance,” she whispered, as if she were giving away government secrets and not admitting her lack of dancing prowess.  

Leander’s brow furrowed. "What'ddya mean?"

"I've never danced slow," she whispered again.

Leander gaped at her. "What?!"

Jimmie rolled her eyes skyward. "I didn't go to dances in high school,” she explained. “I... I never really needed to learn, to do the kind of music I do. I can’t foxtrot across the stage during my songs. I don't know what to do with my feet. Or my hands."

Slowly Leadner’s confused expression faded, and he looked like a cat in the cream. "We can fix that. Here, put your hands here, well, no, more like... right, let's just do this, here, come closer.” He began maneuvering her stance, and her arms. “A bit closer now, love, I won't bite. There. Now just step this way… follow my feet… there you go. No worries, eah? Not so hard?" 

Jimmie chuckled, "Yeah, I guess… I guess not." She followed his steps as best she could, watching her feet stumbling through the sand. She felt like a teenager again. This was exactly what she’d spent her high-school years avoiding. How embarrassing, she thought, to be her age being taught how to dance. She felt redness creeping up into her cheeks as she tried not to notice Leander grinning at her from all of a breath away.

Slowly she began to follow his steps more easily. She glanced up at him, her cheeks still burning, ready to tell him that he missed his calling as a dance teacher if he could teach her how to slow dance, but that thought was cut off by the pressure of his lips on hers. 

The kiss didn't last long, but it didn't go unnoticed, either. Catcalls rang out almost immediately from Verity, Anouk and Dahlia.

"What's the phrase? 'You go girl'?" Dahlia asked, deadpan, winking at Jimmie who hid her face in Leander's shoulder for a moment before stepping away from him.

"That'd be it, Dahl! And I concure," Anouk laughed, puckering her lips.

Verity too couldn't bear not chiming in. "I'm shocked, absolutely shocked. And kind of turned on, but mostly shocked!"

"Oh hell," Jimmie grimaced, and glanced over to see Leander still grinning at her. "Oh, this amuses you?"

"To no end," he laughed, and pressed his lips against her forehead.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Blessed - Joe Devereaux

Joe laid awake for a moment before he realized what had woken him up.

Jasper, he thought, listening to the soft crying coming from down the hall. Joe blinked himself awake, and pushed the covers away. Audrey stirred next to him, but he patted her as he sat up. "My turn. I'll get 'im." 

"Mmmkay," she moaned, her eyes still closed, and snuggled back into the pillow.

Joe padded across the cold wood floor, out into the hall and towards the twins' room. "Hey there, little man, hey," he whispered as he picked his boy up. "Shhh, now, shhh! You'll wake Abe up. Shhh..."

The little boy quieted as soon as he was up in his father's arms, and Joe rocked him gently. Joe peered into Abel's crib, and gave a sigh of relief when he saw that Jasper's twin was still fast asleep.

"Com'on, son, let's get you somethin' to eat." He whispered and soothed the baby all the way down to the kitchen. Jasper took the bottle eagerly, and Joe smiled as he watched his son's eyes close as he ate.

My eyes, he thought, just like Abel has Audie's. It seemed like just yesterday he was rushing Audrey to the hospital, his heart nearly leaping out of his chest. The hours they'd spent there, with Audie screaming and him pacing and praying. Then the baby doctor, Audie's friend Sunday, had said those words that changed his life forever : "Congratulations! You've got two beautiful sons!"

With Jasper lulled back to sleep, Joe crept back upstairs and settled him back into his crib. He stopped to give Abel a kiss on his soft, sweet-smelling head, and padded back to the bedroom.

"They okay?" Audie asked as he climbed in.

"Mmm-hmm, just fine. Go on back to sleep."


A cool breeze blew in through the window, and Joe curled into Audie's warmth. Blessed, he thought, listening to her soft, rhthymic breathing. That's what we are. Blessed.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Not Tonight - Susanna Hochstetler

It was late, but Susanna Hochstetler was nowhere near ready for sleep. She stood at her bedroom window and peered down into the darkness, searching the yard and her family's stretch of farmland for any sign of movement.
'Ach, this is no good,' she worried. 'Dat's bound to catch up to us eventually... oh, he'll be mad as be! If Jacob comes tonight, I dassent go out to meet him... oh, but do want to.' Suddenly Susanna caught sight of Jacob's dark head coming through the field, between round bales of hay. Not another thought about not going out to see him crossed her mind, as she quickly hurried to her door, and crept downstairs.
She hurried to meet him in the front yard, her heart thudding away in her chest. "Hello, Susanna," he said softly, smiling she approached him. "I stopped by the singin' last night. I'd hoped to see you after, give you a ride back home, but Lettie said you hadn't come."
"Oh, no, I didn't. Caleb was runnin' a fever, bein' real fussy, and Dat was out in the fields late again...."

"He could'da called on my brothers and me. Me own dat's fields are near done, we'da been happy to help."

 "Ach, you know Dat. He wouldn't ask for a hand if he were drownin'. And besides, I thought... I thought...."

 "You thought what?"

Susanna rubbed her bare foot in the grass, shifting her eyes. "I thought you'd be at the singin' with someone else."

"Like who?"

"Ruthie Esh," Susanna said quietly, and shot a look up at Jacob when he started laughing. "Shh!" She shushed him, glancing up at the dark house behind them.

 "Sorry," he apologized, still chuckling. "Firstly, Susanna, I don't go to singin's - I'm too old. I made special the trip last night to see you. And secondly, I've no affection for Ruthie Esh. I don't care much for girls with such luftich ways -- I seen her in town one night on her rumspringa, lookin' ferroontzled, and half nockich to boot! Nah. Besides, there's already a girl I'm fond of."

Susanna drew a quick breath, and Jacob smiled. He reached out to stroke her cheek, "And she's the pertiest girl in Simmersburg."
A deep blush crept up Susanna's cheeks, and she held his hand to her cheek. "Ach, Jacob, I'm sure fond of you too."

He grinned, and Susanna's heart went pitter-pat. "So next singin', you'll want a ride home with me?"

"I surely will."
"Wonderful-gut. Now you best get on upstairs, you look schlafferich. Get some sleep." With a kiss to her forehead, he was gone, weaving back through the fields towards his family's home.
Susanna stood watching him go, grinning from ear to ear, until he was out of sight. She was still smiling when she crept back inside.
That is, until she heard the creak of her father's door opening.

"Susanna?" He asked, his eyes barely open and his voice rough with sleep. "What're you doin', child?"
"I, uhm...." Susanna glanced quickly down at her dress, her polished black shoes, and realized she couldn't say she'd been sleeping. "I went out for a walk," she lied quickly, hoping her voice didn't show her guilt.

 "A walk, at this time of night? You weren't out seein' that Henner Bieler, were you?"

Surprise colored her face, "No, Dat. I wasn't seein' Henner. I couldn't sleep, it's so terrible warm, and I wanted to get some breeze."

 Her father studied her for a moment, before nodding his head. "You best get up to bed now, then."

"Yes, Dat. Gut nacht." Susanna hurried up the stairs, making it to her bedroom before letting out a deep breath.

 'He'll catch you eventually, silly girl' she thought to herself as she climbed into bed a short while later, 'But at least it wasn't tonight.'